Wolverton Agora

URBED Illustrative Masterplan
URBED Illustrative Masterplan
Proposed car-free "little street"   Image credit: DarcStudio
Proposed car-free "little street" Image credit: DarcStudio

'Love Wolverton' is a £35 million redevelopment of the Agora Centre in Wolverton, Milton Keynes, providing new low-traffic streets, 115 energy-efficient homes, independent shops and an energy microgrid. The project has just been announced as winner of a National Urban Design Award for midscale frameworks and masterplans. URBED have been delighted to work with TOWN, Civic Engineers, Mole Architects and Mikhail Riches on this project.

The developer TOWN gained planning approval in August 2021 which has been a major milestone for the Love Wolverton project. The plans were developed as a response to Milton Keynes Council’s declaration of a climate emergency where their target is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% against standard Building Regulations Part L.

 

Urban Design

URBED were originally commissioned by TOWN in 2016 to develop a mixed-use masterplan for the site. This looked to reinstate the historic Victorian street pattern that had been lost to the Agora shopping centre, reconnect Radcliffe Street and Church Street with the Square, and create new vibrant streets for a mixed community. 

The masterplan has progressed into a design of six development blocks (two to four storeys) laid out in a grid of “little streets’ that connect to the existing walkable street grid. The Little Streets, modelled on the ‘lost’ early Wolverton streets of Young Street and Ledsam Street and today’s Bedford Street and Oxford Street, offer an opportunity to celebrate Wolverton’s heritage in the landscape while introducing a thoroughly modern public realm typology in which the absence of vehicles allows people to thrive. Designs have been based on the Dutch car-free and low-traffic ‘home-zone’ principles to create green, sociable and play-friendly spaces which views the street as a social space with pedestrian safety in mind rather than solely for vehicular mobility. Close proximity to Wolverton train station, high frequency buses and the MK redway cycle network supports the reduction of car travel beyond the neighbourhood.

Ground floor retail uses occupy the most important street corners, further activating the streets and reinforcing the town’s existing retail loop; several have spill-out spaces planned for outdoor dining and displays. 

 

Landscape

Following the masterplanning stages, URBED were retained as landscape architects on the project and developed a landscaping strategy that proposes a mix of public, private and shared spaces to enrich the town centre. Every dwelling has a private balcony, terrace or patio and four blocks have shared semi-private courtyard gardens. The central communal gardens will feature space for food-growing, nature-play and socialising, and will include a variety of plant species creating diversity and seasonal interest for the residences. 

The pedestrian friendly public landscape will feature seating spaces, bike racks and robust planting. The urban hardscape will be contrasted with a variety of tree species that add dynamic seasonal interest to the character of the streets and quality of individual spaces.

 

Housing

The residential mix ranges from one-bed flats to four-bed houses, with a mix of types and sizes in each block, making for many front doors to the street and a diverse range of households within each block. A central block, Block C, is a courtyard block of 29 one, two and three-bed apartments in a development for Still Green, an over-50s cohousing community based in Milton Keynes. The other blocks will be of rental tenure, including market rent and a local policy-compliant 31% affordable housing.

The architecture, designed by Mikhail Riches and Mole Architects, respects and celebrates Victorian Wolverton, combining contemporary forms with locally resonant brick tones, proportions and porch and window details.

 

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